These days, dining out can increasingly feel like a competitive solo sport. Restaurants now bend over backwards to appease individual diners of all tastes and dietary restrictions. It can sometimes feel like you and your partner are eating at two completely different spots. (If you’ve ever found yourself staring down a bowl of tonkotsu ramen while your partner digs into a slice of pizza or a grilled cheese sandwich, you know what I’m talking about.) This Valentine’s Day, why not take a step back and decide on a dish you both love — together? From a massive tomahawk steak that could probably feed a family of four to shared punch bowls and elegant seafood towers, these large-format dishes are perfect to split for two. And after all, what’s more romantic than sharing?
Prime Beef Tomahawk Ribeye
HEW Parlor & Chophouse
Weighing in at a whopping 32 ounces, this massive tomahawk ribeye could arguably feed up to three (or more) people, but for two, it’s a very decadent treat. The steak is served with a sherry and Dijon mustard demi-glace and topped with crispy-fried truffled onion rings.
453 Edgewater Drive, Dunedin; toll-free 1-844-569-9879; fenwayhotel.com
You could pick a bunch of tapas and spend the evening noshing over a collection of shared plates, or you could go straight for the main attraction — one of the restaurant’s signature paellas. The South Tampa Spanish restaurant’s standard seafood version is a saffron-tinged dish chock-full of calamari, clams, prawns and shrimp. Carnivores might go the paella de pollo route, with chicken, artichoke hearts and Portobello mushrooms, or the paella mixto, which combines the best of both worlds: calamari, clams, shrimp, fish and chicken. Enjoy the paella and maybe fight a little bit of the socarrat — the deliciously crispy bits of rice at the bottom of the pan. It’s like taking a trip to Barcelona, but without the jet lag.
930 S Howard Ave., Tampa; (813) 773-8626; bullagastrobar.com
Smoking Shellfish Tower
Whether you believe in the old adage that oysters act as an aphrodisiac or not, they’re delicious nonetheless and plentiful on this three-tiered tower toppling with fresh seafood. The towers are customized to the diner’s whim, meaning it’s your choice whether you want a tower stacked with just West and East Coast bivalves or a combination of shrimp cocktail, Dutch Harbor king crab legs and chilled Maine lobster.
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205 N West Shore Blvd., Tampa; (813) 490-5288; ocean-prime.com
Lolita’s Wine Market
Get creative while designing your own charcuterie spread at this gem of a wine bar in St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District. Pick a bottle of wine from the day’s selection or ask one of the servers to recommend one. Then, get to tallying off your cheese, meat and accoutrements selections on the mix-and-match forms that double as menus. From silky ribbons of prosciutto to wild mushroom forest pate, creamy burrata, Delice de Bourgogne triple cream and Woodriver Creamery black truffle cheddar, the sky’s the limit. Jars filled with creative spreads include a honey lavender whipped ricotta with kale pesto and tomatoes and the Southern-leaning pimento medley made with aged cheddar, peppadew peppers, cornichons and scallions. Is the date going well? Just keep on checking off more of those boxes and order another bottle.
1618 18th St. S, St. Petersburg; (727) 505-0503; lolitaswinemarket.com
Grilled whole fish
Dining with a waterfront view is pretty romantic. Dining al fresco with a waterfront view is arguably even more so. Weather permitting, you can swing both at this downtown St. Petersburg restaurant inside the Vinoy. Maybe not the best pick for those who get squeamish about all the fishy bits (eyeballs and teeth, included), the eatery’s star dish — a whole grilled fish — is a great chance to share whatever the fresh catch of the day is with your sweetie while overlooking the municipal marina. The dish is a lighter way to share a larger plate, topped with a handful of fresh herbs, citrus and a charred corn and black bean salsa.
501 Fifth Ave. NE, St. Petersburg; (727) 824-8007; paulslandingstpete.com
Baked Alaska (or any dessert, really)
Harry Waugh Dessert Room
Really, there’s no need to settle on just one dessert to split here, because pretty much all of the sweet afterthoughts feel big enough to share. From the toppling macadamia nut sundae dripping in hot fudge to the massive slice of carrot cake with spice pecans and almonds that is the restaurant’s signature King Midas to the flambeed theatrics accompanying the baked Alaska, there’s plenty to satisfy your sweetheart’s sweet tooth. And if both you and your partner are sugar fiends, go ahead and treat yourselves — order an extra scoop (or two) of that macadamia nut ice cream on the side.
1208 S Howard Ave., Tampa; (813) 251-2421; bernssteakhouse.com
Maybe you’re looking for a little liquid courage or maybe you simply don’t want the night to end. In any case, who’s to say that your drinks also can’t be shared? The punch bowl at this speakeasy-style cocktail bar in South Tampa changes nightly, depending on the bartender’s choice. There’s also the shareable Ciro Dreams Of… cocktail made with brown butter washed Tullamore Dew whiskey, Dolin Genepy liqueur, peach syrup, matcha and peach bitters.
2109 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa; (813) 251-0022; cirostampa.com